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Have you tried our Organic HEMP SEED OIL - Cold-pressed, Extra Virgin health in a bottle!

Technical Questions

What is ALA, GLA and LA

What is ALA?

ALA stands for alpha linolenic acid.   This fatty acid is classed as an essential fatty acid as it cannot be synthesised in the body, so must be taken as part of the diet.   It belongs to the Omega-3 family of fatty acids.

What is GLA?

GLA stands for gamma linolenic acid.   This fatty acid is a derivative of the Omega-6 essential fatty acid linoleic acid.

What is LA?

LA stands for linoleic acid.   This fatty acid is classed as an essential fatty acid as it cannot be synthesised in the body, so must be taken as part of the diet. It belongs to the Omega-6 family of fatty acids.

EFA Metabolism and Conversion

There are two essential fatty acids (EFAs) that must be obtained from the diet or from supplements because they cannot be synthesized in the body - the Omega-3 alpha linolenic acid and the Omega-6 linoleic acid.

When these fatty acids are converted to secondary EFAs, they undergo a series of enzymatic reactions in the body that desaturate them (add a double bond by removing a hydrogen atom) and elongate them (by adding two carbon atoms).

These reactions are shown in the following diagram:

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-6 fatty acids

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

Linoleic acid (LA)



Stearidonic acid

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)




Dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA)



Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

Arachidonic acid (AA)



Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)


*The exact mechanism of this step is still being actively researched.

The first step in the metabolism of both the Omega-3 and Omega-6 EFAs is delta-6-desaturase (D6D).   This step is the one most affected by a variety of nutritional, hormonal and metabolic factors.   Therefore if any of these factors is compromised the conversion process will be affected.

Because some of the same enzymes are used to metabolise both the Omega-3 and Omega-6 families, an excess of either family of fatty acids can interfere with the metabolism of the other - its all about the balance.

ALA, the Omega-3 found in flax seed oil, appears to have these destinations:

  • Burned to produce energy
  • Used as a component of all the cell membranes
  • Converted to the long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids e.g. EPA and DPA

ALA in the cell membranes improves the flow of nutrients and wastes in and out of the cell and improves communication between cells.

The conversion of ALA to the long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids is a controversial area.   Different studies have found different rates of conversion.   The disparity between these studies may be attributable to differences in study methods, populations and background diet.

Factors affecting conversion efficiency:

  • Diet - a diet rich in LA decreases ALA conversion by as much as 40%.   ALA conversion is negatively affected by intake of saturated fat, oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acid found in olive oil), trans fatty acids (twisted fat molecules found in hydrogenated, unsaturated oils) and cholesterol.   High intake of the long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids will also slow down conversion.   Furthermore, dietary deficiency in any of the co-factor nutrients required for conversion (vitamins B3, B6 and C available and the minerals magnesium and zinc) will decrease efficiency. S
  • Gender - women seem to be more sensitive to diet than men and will therefore convert more ALA to DHA when their diet is deficient in DHA.   This may be important during pregnancy and lactation in order to ensure that the foetus/baby obtains sufficient long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids for development. 
  • Cigarette smoking - a study on human cells found that cigarette smoke reduces the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol
  • Genetic factors
  • Age - the very young (foetuses and infants) are less efficient because their metabolic processes are not yet fully developed and efficiency may also decline with age


How efficient is conversion of primary EFAs to their derivative secondary

For effective conversion of the primary essential fatty acids alpha linolenic acid (Omega-3) and linoleic acid (Omega-6) to their derivative secondary EFAs, it is necessary to have adequate vitamins B3, B6 and C available and the minerals magnesium and zinc.   These nutrients are used as co-factors in the enzyme reaction that performs the conversion. 

Conversion can also be hampered by a number of other factors such as:

  • High intake of trans fats, saturated fats, too much Omega-6 or Omega-6
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Genetic factors

The very young (foetuses and infants) are less efficient because their metabolic processes are not yet fully developed and efficiency may also decline with age. Women appear to be more able than men to convert from alpha linolenic acid to   the secondary Omega-3s.

Conversion efficiency is therefore variable in the population.

We have designed waihi bush organic farm flax boost especially for those who need help bypassing the first conversion step which changes alpha linolenic acid to stearidonic acid and changes linoleic acid to gamma linolenic acid.


About Flax Lignans

Flax is the richest dietary source of the lignan secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG).   SDG is converted by bacteria in the gut into forms (enterodiol and enterolactone) that work in the human body as weak oestrogens and as antioxidants.

Phytoestrogens (oestrogens derived from plants) are able to attach to oestrogen receptors on the body cells, but their oestrogenic activity is much weaker than the body's own (endogenous) oestrogens.   Phytoestrogens can therefore reduce oestrogenic activity in the tissues, by competing with endogenous oestrogen for receptor sites.   Such anti-oestrogenic effects in reproductive tissue are of great interest because of their potential to help reduce the risk of hormone associated cancers such as cancers of the breast, uterus, ovaries and prostate and help to regulate hormonal imbalances such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), PMS or endometriosis.

Conversely, phytoestrogens may supplement low endogenous oestrogen in post-menopausal women and therefore help to maintain bone density and reduce menopausal symptoms. 

In their capacity as antioxidants, lignans may offer useful protection against cardiovascular disease and other disease associated with free radical damage. S

Lignans may also dampen inflammatory reactions by blocking the release of platelet activating factor (PAF).

A very small, but   promising randomised human study has shown that 30g flax meal per day taken in a muffin, during the period between diagnosis and   excision of the breast tumour, inhibited metastasis of breast cancer cells and/or shrank the tumour size and that taking the flax was as effective as the breast cancer drug tamoxifen, without any side effects.

In studies that have demonstrated benefits of flax consumption, it is not known for sure whether this can be attributed to lignans or to other nutrients in the flax. It is not known whether data from studies using other phytoestrogens, such as those derived from soy, is of relevance to flax lignans.

Better designed human studies are needed to explore the potential of flax lignans.

Young in the womb are particularly sensitive to hormones.   High oestrogen levels are needed to prepare the uterus for the growing foetus, however too much oestrogen during pregnancy can have adverse effects.   In animals, reduced litter size, birth weight and sexual development have been seen.   flax fibre therefore carries a warning that pregnant women seek counsel from their health practitioner.   waihi bush organic farm flax seed oils do not contain lignans and are therefore safe during pregnancy and lactation - indeed there is a high requirement for Omega-3 fatty acids at these times. 


Tell me about the oils you use

Blackcurrant Seed Oil

Blackcurrant seed oil contains the Omega-6 fatty acid GLA. It also contains the Omega-3 stearidonic acid.

GLA and stearidonic acid by-pass the first step in the conversion of the Omega-6 linoleic acid and the Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, which can be hampered by some health conditions and dietary inadequacies/imbalances. See 'EFA Metabolism and Conversion' and 'How efficient is a conversion of primary EFAs to their derivative secondary EFAs?'

Blackcurrant seed oil is used in flax boost, flax bloom and flax magic to take advantage of its GLA and stearidonic acid content.

Golden Flax Seed Oil

While flax normally has three times as much alpha linolenic acid as linoleic acid, the cultivar of golden flax seed used in the flax magic and flax bloom blends has more linoleic acid and less alpha-linolenic acid.

Our ancestors evolved on a Palaeolithic diet supplying equal amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6. Research suggests that a typical modern western diet can result in severe essential fatty acid imbalances - an Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio of 1:20 may not be unusual.

However, in people who are not as Omega-3 depleted, e.g. infants and children who have not had decades of poor diet. Normal flax seed oil may not be appropriate because it is too high in Omega-3.   This is why we have used golden flax seed oil in flax magic and flax bloom.

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is a well-balanced oil, containing the Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and the Omega-6 linoleic acid in a 1:2 ratio.   It also contains the Omega-6 GLA and the Omega-3 stearidonic acid.

GLA and stearidonic acid by-pass the first step in the conversion of the Omega-6 linoleic acid and the Omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, which can be hampered by some health conditions and dietary inadequacies/imbalances. See 'EFA Metabolism and Conversion' and 'How efficient is the conversion of primary EFAs to their derivative secondary EFAs?'.

Hemp seed oil is used in flax magic to take advantage of its GLA and stearidonic acid content and its well-balanced Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio.

The psychoactive ingredient in Marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).   Our hemp seed oil has been laboratory tested and there are NO traces of THC found .

Safflower Oil

Safflower oil is rich in the Omega-6 essential fatty acid linoleic acid. Safflower seed oil is used in flax balance, to complement the high concentration of Omega-3 in flax seed oil. This unique blend provides a 1:1 ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose oil is one of the richest sources of the Omega-6 fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA).

GLA is an Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in very few plants. Along with Evening Primrose, it is found in hemp, black currant and borage.

The body has the ability to obtain GLA from linoleic acid. However, over-consumption of linoleic acid, which is typical in the western diet, can actually reduce body concentrations of GLA because the conversion from linoleic acid to GLA is inhibited by too much linoleic acid.

Evening Primrose seed oil is used in flax bloom.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is one of the richest sources of lauric acid, which is the medium chain fatty acid found in high concentrations in human breast milk.

Lauric acid has the additional beneficial function of being formed into monolaurin in the human body - both lauric acid and monolaurin are recognized as having antiviralantibacterial, and antiprotozoal   properties.

Coconut oil can give improved energy levels and metabolic rate by regulating thyroid function and helps to keep your skin healthy and youthful looking

Coconut oil is used in flax bloom.

Pumpkin Seed Oil

Pumpkin seed oil is a good source of Omega-6 and Omega -9.

Pumpkin seed oil contains:

  • phytosterols which possess anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidation activities)
  • a wide range of vitamins (Vitamin E b- and g-tocopherol) and Vitamin A (lutein and b-carotene).
  • high levels of the minerals.   selenium, zinc, calcium, copper, iron, manganese

Pumpkin seed oil is used in flax bloom.

Potential Applications of Flax as a Food Ingredient

waihi bush organic farm flax seed oils and fibre are quality functional food ingredients that lend themselves well to many applications.

For more information about the impressive nutritional properties of these ingredients:

As well as improving the nutritional profile of foods, flax fibre and flax original can impart a pleasing texture and flavour.

flax fibre also reduces the need for shortening or oils in baked goods - it can be used at a 3 to 1 ratio to the shortening or oil being replaced.    Goods will brown more quickly.

flax fibre can be used in recipes as an egg replacer - 1 tablespoon of flax fibre plus 3 tablespoons of water will substitute for 1 egg.   The mixture should be allowed to sit for 1 to 2 minutes before use in your recipe.

When substituting flax fibre for flour, aim for about 15% of the flour content or 8% of the total dry ingredient weight.   The soluble fibre in flax fibre can help to improve loaf volume, oven spring and shelf life of the finished product.

Because of flax fibre's water binding properties, the water added to a formula should be increased by an amount equivalent to 75% of the flax meal added.

In yeast bread, flax fibre can replace 10-15% of the flour.   To maintain the same proof time, texture and consistency, the yeast should be increased by 25%.

Potential applications for flax fibre - original include:

  • Rolls, bagels, bread, crackers, muffins
  • Cereals, granola
  • Pasta
  • Energy bars, chews
  • Dry mixes for pancakes, muffins, waffles
  • Powdered drink mixes
  • Egg replacement in vegan goods
  • Butchery products e.g. sausages, patties
  • Soups
  • Pet foods

Potential applications for any waihi bush organic farm flax seed oil blend include:

  • Beverages
  • Frozen dessert with the flax seed oil blend replacing part of the milk fat
  • Pet foods

Call us to discuss your ideas on how your company can incorporate flax fibre or flax original into your products to instantly improve their nutritive value.

Storage of Flax as a Food Ingredient

Studies have shown that flax fibre is surprisingly stable, despite its content of polyunsaturated Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.   For instance in one study neither trained sensory test panellists nor laboratory tests for oxidation by-products were able to detect any significant change in packages of 1kg bags of milled flax seed stored at 23°C for 128 days.

Accelerated shelf life studies carried out by Crop and Food Research Ltd, Lincoln, Christchurch for Functional Whole Foods New Zealand Ltd have confirmed the stability of ALA in flax seed oil blends for over 13 months at ambient temperatures.

Canadian researchers have also demonstrated the stability of the flax lignan SDG in baking applications.

Freezing or storing in the fridge prolongs the freshness of both flax seed oil blends.

Baking Stability of Flax as a Food Ingredient

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in milled flax seed also appears to be stable to heat equal to temperatures involved in baking batters and doughs such as muffins or bread.

One test heated milled flax seed to as high as 350°C for 60 minutes with no significant change in oxidation by-products or creation of trans-isomers of ALA or cyclic fatty acids. Subsequent tests have confirmed baking stability.

What is the bottle made of?

High density polyethylene (HDPE). This is a high quality, food grade, extremely safe material for using with food (especially oils).   HDPE doesn't allow any chemicals to leach into the oil.

There is no evidence in scientific literature that phthalates are being used in HDPE bottles.

What are your capsules made of?

What is the gel capsule made of?

Bovine gelatin flavoured with natural caramel.

What is the vege capsule made of?

Seaweed extract with natural caramel.